Music History Synopsis
Major Political events- Much of the written compositions made in this time were destroyed or went missing as the Christian church got rid of pagan influences. Rome was overthrown and Europe went into turmoil and people focused less on music and more on survival. Historical perspective- Aristotle and Plato wrote about music which they believed to have moral and ethical properties essential to the complete education of young students. Their aesthetic, scientific, and philosophical concepts concerning music influenced the history of Western music.
The words used for musical concepts, systems of tuning, the science of sound, and the belief that music has the ability to evoke emotion all come from Greek roots. They believed that music meant “the art of the Muses” who were the goddesses of all arts. They considered poetry and music nearly the synonymous. Music was thought to have been invented by the gods for their own pleasure. One story is of Orpheus, the half mortal son of the god Apollo who plays the lyre so divinely and the story of his retrieval of his wife Euridice has been put to music.
Pythagoras studied acoustics, the tuning of musical instruments, and measured intervals. Visual, literary, and performing arts- Much of their art has been copied and excavated and uncovered from Pompeii and Herculaneum. Not many examples of music were left behind. There were athletic games, and poetry recitals. Music was combined with other arts: drama, poetry, and dancing. Classical music comes from the God Apollo whereas romantic music came from Dionysus who played the aulos. Major Composers- Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides all had dramas that were written to be sung and danced. Musical forms- They improvised on the spot, creating and performing their works. Many people don’t know how the music actually sounded. The drinking song is one example: “Epitaph of Seikilos.” It was generally monophonic in texture with a melody sung or played on musical instruments, or both. Singing or playing in harmony did not seem to occur. Terms and definitions- Greeks often improvised and created their own music on the spot, leaving behind no written record. They believed in the ethos of music in that it affected one’s mood and self, for better or worse, and believed it was capable of performing miracles. Pythagoras was the first to study acoustics, or the science of sound. Modes are seven note scales using the Pythagorean interval measurements. Classical music is restrained, objective, and with form and balance. Romantic music is emotional, dramatic, and more concerned with expression.
Medieval (500-1450) (Middle Ages)
Major Political events- The Christian Church dominated ideas and music in this era. Historical perspective- After the fall of Rome, there were periods of warfare, drought, floods, famine, and disease. The Christian church did not allow music addressed to Greek or Roman Gods, only on Christian deity. Pope Gregory I had chants organized and the collection was known as Gregorian chants. Visual, literary, and performing arts- The art appeared weightless, or almost disembodied. The visual arts were highly decorative and refined, their colors sensitively applied and their details carefully drawn. Gothic churches were created with sculptures, frescoes, and stained-glass windows in the churches illustrated Bible stories for people who could not read. Most of the art was based on religious subject and music as well. Giotto’s art was focused on solid and real figures. Major Composers- The Benedictine abbess Hildegard of Bingen created sacred songs and chants and covered a far range of pitches. Guillaume de Machaut, a poet and musician, was the first to set the entire Ordinary of the Mass and is known as the Mass of our Lady (Missa Notre Dame). He used hocket which was like a hiccup effect Musical forms- They sang chanted melodies, and psalms in church. They had church dramas which later led to music dramas. The music was based on modal scales, different from the major/minor scales of today; each church has its own character. The texture was independent melodic lines in polyphony. The people enjoyed softer timbres mostly like in the symphony orchestra. Gregorian chants have a free, flexible rhythm and notes corresponded to syllables. Eventually monks combined more melodic lines chants, inventing polyphony. A “new method” of music, ars nova (new art) replaced the old methods of the thirteenth century. Music became slightly more romantic or expressive in the fourteenth century.
Terms and definitions- Linear polyphony is two or more lines of music sung or played at the same time. The Gregorian chants (named after Pope Gregory I) were performed in unison with all voices singing the same melody at the same time, and a cappella with no instruments. This was called plainsong, plainchant, or chant. Melismatic chants set one syllable of text to several notes. A drone is a held out, or repeated tone either sung or played on one or more instruments. Organum is the earliest form of polyphonic texture. One early English song was known as a canon with all of the voices performing the same melody beginning at different times, also known as a round. A repeated bass motive or bass ostinato is added too. The Age of Humanism came with a new respect for and faith in humankind. Mass in the Roman Catholic Church was where polyphonic music was set to portions of the worship service. There are Proper portions for certain holidays or seasons and the five Ordinary sections.
Major Political events- The Protestant Reformation started in Germany in 1517 when Martin Luther, a scholar and monk, brought to public attention ways in which he would like to reform the Church rather than rebel against it. King Henry the eighth declared Catholicism illegal in his country when not allowed to divorce. He established the Church of England. Protestant Huguenots rapidly increased in number in France. The Council of Trent tried to improve the Catholic church in the Counter-Reformation. Historical perspective- The trend towards ars nova became even more apparent in the early fifteenth century. The music renaissance began in parts of Europe that include Belgium, Holland and northern France that were called the Netherlands, or Flanders. The wealthy offered good money to the musicians and women soon were part of it, singing madrigals to entertain kings and dukes. Visual, literary, and performing arts- The human body was the focus as anatomy was studied. Paintings were made of the nude body to show its beauty and natural aspect. New aspects of Renaissance paintings included higher quality paints in more colors, linear perspective, landscape with backgrounds, and foregrounds, as well as natural lighting. Madonnas and saints appear warm and breathing and realistic. Painters used pyramid designs with the principle object in the center and smaller figures to each side.
Building had columns, clear windows and architects put much effort into palaces, public buildings and private residences and the new style was made to enhance the comfort of life. Sculptures focused on the human body. Major Composers- Martin Luther introduced the chorale. Catholic composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina wrote choral music indicating sensitivity to some of the criticisms of Catholic Church music made by Protestants. Josquin Desprez was a fine singer and prolific composer who used word painting and pungent dissonance for emotional effect. Louis Burgeois created the psalm tune, “Old Hundred.” Thomas Weelkes’s famous madrigal “As Vesta Was from Latmos Hill Descending” was an English madrigal, lighter in mood, more whimsical, sentimental, humorous, and festive. John Dowland was a great Irish lutenist often adapted fast-tempo galliard for solo lute. Musical forms- There were Martin Luther’s chorale as well as the Calvinist service consisting only of unaccompanied psalm tunes. Most of the musicians preferred the homogenous sound of a capella although they sometimes were accompanied by an instrument. It was based on modal scales and major and minor sounds became more and more characteristic as the Renaissance continued. The Renaissance motet, a polyphonic vocal form was a religious piece, worshipful in sound, though based on folk or popular tunes. The Renaissance motet is through-composed with each phrase of the text set to a new melody. The texture, called imitative polyphony, is different than a round as it is only similar not a repetition of the preceding voice. Josquin created a smooth seamless effect by overlapping phrases and wrote “Ave Maria.” The Mass had classical order and serenity with choral music. Palestrina gave Mass settings a transparent texture that allowed the words to be clearly understood. He used techniques including thirds and sixths, natural rhythms, and syllabic passages. Martin Luther introduced the hymn called the Lutheran chorale that was in strophic form. John Calvin introduced the psalm tune that was a capella singing in the vernacular, of biblical verses called psalms. The madrigal was through-composed in form and mostly polyphonic in texture, written in the vernacular, with secular text for an expressive style serving as entertainment in casual performances.
Many instrumental pieces were in forms and rhythmic patterns of popular dances of the day but were intended to be listened to rather than be accompanied by dance. Songs were accompanied by instruments such as the lute, guitar, viol, keyboard, clavichord, harpsichord, pipe organ, recorder, trombone, and trumpet. Women could play the viol, lute, psaltery, harp, clavichord, harpsichord, and small organs which could be played in “graceful” positions with no change in facial expression. Terms and definitions- The Counter-Reformation was the Catholic response to the Protestant movement. The period was known as the Golden Age of Polyphony but usually, all the voices were of equal importance with the bass soon becoming the supportive section. Word painting with harmonic, rhythmic, and melodic techniques increased the emotional impact of the music. A hymn is a congregational song. Strophic form has all stanza of a chorale set to the same music. A psalter is a collection of psalms that could be sung to the same tune. The lute was a pear shaped plucked string instrument that played difficult and easy pieces. The viol was a six-stringed precursor of the modern violin with ridges in its neck to indicate where the player should stop the string. The clavichord allowed the player to hold a note until the key was let go and sometimes create a vibrato or rapid vibration in pitch. The recorder was an end-blown flute provided a wide range of pitches. Consorts consisted of three or more instruments of related timbre but of different sizes with different ranges of pitch.
Historical perspective- Scientific research made great strides during the seventeenth century. In England, Anglicans harassed Puritans who then sailed to the New World to escape. The Separatists abandoned the Anglican church completely. Galileo and Isaac Newton had studies that led to the measuring of time in music. The first public opera house and public concerts were held. Visual, literary, and performing arts- Artists focused on exaggeration of figures and their features. El Greco had styles that were sometimes referred to as mannerism, but had drama, emotion, and mysticism like the Baroque style. The viewers eye is often directed off the canvas as if resisting the boundaries of measured space. Sculptures pose with tension and strain, in action. Buildings jut and protrude. Literature sought to achieve maximum emotional impact with Don Quixote and Moliere’s works. Painters used light to add drama to their works. Blinding light, religious fervor, dramatic action, and personal divine communication are all characteristics. Bernini’s David is hurling a stone at Goliath. Major Composers- Giovanni Gabrieli, a famous organist, teacher, and composer, wrote many compositions for St. Mark’s basilica. Florentine Camerata promoted changes in artistic style and wanted a melody that would approximate spoken inflections in the dramatic declamation of a text and called their new solo singing style monody. Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini was an artist and composer. Handel composed operas and oratorios for the English public. J.S. Bach. Claudio Monteverdi was choirmaster at St. Mark’s in Venice and used dissonance for purely expressive purposes. Henry Purcell, an English composer excelled in the creation of vocal dramatic works including the opera Dido and Aeneas. George Frederic Handel began writing the oratorio with the most famous one, the Messiah. J.S. Bach performed mostly for the church including two large oratorios, including Passions. Antonio Vivaldi wrote the Four Seasons. Musical forms- In Venice, polychoral music had large sections with massive chordal combinations, vertically conceived, with modal concepts, and concertato principle. Gabrieli wrote motets for 2-5 choirs positioned at different spots in the church. He wrote Sonata pian’ e forte with contrasting soft and loud passages. Piano was to be played by one choir alone whereas forte sections were played by combined ensembles. His sonata contained a broken consort with one instrument of a timbre different from the others in the group and was the first to specify certain instruments to certain lines of music. Contrasts of timbre, alternation of free and metered rhythms, and abrupt changes in dynamic levels are typical of the style.
Movements were created as chapters in a play. Composers gave homophony equal importance with polyphonic texture. The bass line served primarily to support the melodies. Monteverdi considered first practice as conventional rules for serious pieces and second practice for dramatic style and secular songs. Chromaticism had tones from the chromatic scale and was used more freely. Recitative was close to spoken inflection, flexible rhythm, homophonic texture and was dry (accompanied by a keyboard) or accompanied (accompanied by an orchestra). An aria is designed to express emotion and display the singing voice, with metered rhythm, with a formal design, and accompanied by an orchestra. Bel canto was a type of opera that emphasized the beauty and virtuosity of the singing voice. Ballad opera with catchy tunes and an amusing storyline became popular in England. The oratorio is based on a religious subject and made for concert performances. Keyboards and harpsichord and organ became more important Terms and definitions- Affections is the Baroque term for human emotions or states of the soul. Polychoral music is a festive style that contributed to the pomp and ceremony of celebrations of every kind. Concertato principle consisted of contrasting sonorities of voices and instruments. Sonata is a piece to be played on instruments rather that sung. Baroque means odd, irregular, rough, or uneven. The tonal system has every note of the major or minor scales bearing a specific relationship to every other note, and all the pitches are closely related to the tonic. First practice: stile antico, where music was more important than text and had polyphonic texture. Second practice: stile moderno, text dominated the music and had homophonic texture.
Operas were musical dramas sung throughout. Librettos were texts. Recitative refers to a style of spoken declamation and a piece as a section of music sung in that style. Bel canto means beautiful singing. Castrati were men castrated so that their voices stayed high pitched. The prima donna was the virtuoso female singer. Cantatas are dramatic vocal works. Terraced dynamics used pipe organ to change dynamics. A prelude is a short keyboard piece. The choral prelude is the prelude based on the melody of a Lutheran chorale. The fugue is a polyphonic composition with two six melodic lines or voices. A toccata is a form with an improvisatory character, though all notes are written out. Suites are multimovement works. Basso continuo, or figured bass consisted of a strong bass line to which composers added numbers specifying the chords to be played above the bass. Chamber music are pieces played by a small instrumental ensemble with one instrument per line of music. The sonata is one or more solo instruments with basso continuo. The trio sonata had three written lines of music. An orchestra is a string ensemble with a few wind instruments. The solo concerto has one solo instrument and the concerto grosso has a small group of solo instruments.
Major Political events- Artistic subperiod: Rococo Many countries were led to abolish rule by divine right. A king was beheaded, a commoner headed the Puritan regime and the French were enlightened by it. A republican form of government was established. Historical perspective- Voltaire led the French Enlightenment and had essays attacking French society, politics and religion. Many people now had instruments in their homes. Women got more and more involved with music. Visual, literary, and performing arts- Believed art should simply amuse ad entertain. Porcelain, tapestries, and ornaments were popular. Elaborately carved furniture were comfortable as well as beautiful. Paintings were gracefully nude people in love pursuing pleasure. With the French Enlightenment, painting, sculpture, and architecture reflected a new, more serious morality. Paintings appeared warm, and real. Sculptures consisted of line and form. Building and architecture had grace and simplicity in the Neoclassical style.
Reason, knowledge, and classical restraint came out in literature and English theater was important. Major Composers- Francois Couperin had famous keyboard pieces in a rondeau form that alternates different sections or strains of music with a refrain. Franz joseph Haydn made music of all forms and had an oratorio, The Creation. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a child prodigy who composed a great deal in a short life. A composer, Christoph Willibald Gluck introduced a new type of opera with a classical constraint and considered the orchestral piece, or overture, the part which should set the mood and introduce thematic material from the opera itself. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi had a famous opera. Musical forms- More natural style. It was pleasant, sophisticated, primarily instrumental, and witty with hidden jokes. It was homophonic based and gave rise to the “age of feeling.” The music had order and symmetry, with antecedent and consequent phrases, homophonic texture with melodies in the top line, and a larger range of dynamics, and instrumental, secular, and orchestral music dominated. Characteristics: references to Greece and Rome, concern with clarity of form and balanced design, and emotional constraint. The symphony experienced the greatest development and was short pieces for a small number of instruments. Sonata-allegro is the ideal formal design for the first movement of a composition. It had an exposition, development, and recapitulation. The solo concerto was preferred. A Classical concerto had three forms: fast-slow-fast. There is usually a virtuoso passage, called a cadenza, a sort of extended cadence played by the soloist alone. Chamber music is a small number of people in a smaller room with a clear, pure sound. String quartets were popular with two vilins, a viola, and a cello.
A melody(theme) is sung and when repeated it is varied in either rhythm, timbre, or texture, tempo, harmony, dynamic level, key. The third movement is often in the form of a minuet and trio, a dance and a triple meter (ABA). Comic operas were light in mood and concerned with everyday. Haydn and Mozart also wrote many things for Mass. Terms and definitions- The sensitive style (enfindsamer stil) had natural melodies supported by other voices with the intention to be pleasant rather than profound. Mozart composed for a keyboard call the fortepiano, named for its dynamic range. Music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven was referred to as Viennese in style from Vienna. Composers studied the concept of form in music (overall design). The composer may add an additional optional closing passage called a coda. The rondo is a fast tempo and merry in mood (ABACA or ABACADA or ABABA). Contrapuntal is polyphonic in texture. Opera buffa were created in light, humorous style and had an ensemble finale, a closing section in which all of the soloists participate. Mozart has a pants and trousers role with women playing adolescent boys. Mozart’s Requiem was a mass for the Dead.
Major Political events- After Napoleon’s defeat Europe enjoyed a respite from war. Historical perspective- The age of Beethoven was a transitional period in the arts where elements of Classical and Romantic styles appeared side by side. Feeling replaced reason. Visual, literary, and performing arts- Literature was based on feeling, paintings were based on emotional artistic expression. Focused on the interpenetration of the arts. They replaced God in nature or saw God in nature. Artists shared a wide range of ideals and united the arts. Artists depended on middle class support. The art reflects the emotional instability of its creators. Literature reveals a love of nature. Major Composers- Beethoven is a bridge between Classical and Romantic period. Schubert’s instrumental style is basically Classical although his symphonies are romantically lyrical and expressive. The Five were the Russian composers associated with nationalism. Mendelssohn and Brahms, Hector Berlioz, Hensel, Liszt, and Tchaikovsky. Chopin dominated piano music, including the intimate character pieces. Wagner introduced music drama where text and music were of equal importance.
Musical forms- More instruments were used. It was emotionally expressive and included many individualized styles. Cyclic form was a repeated tune in two or more movements. Nationalism led artists to turn to German influences in the arts. Three orchestral forms were introduced: The concert overture with programmatic and abstract principles of design; the program symphony with cyclic form and the symphonic poem, a one-movement form. The piano was a well used medium. They were gifted in producing music for the solo voice. Several operatic styles emerged. Grand opera had visual and dramatic effects. Verismo or realim was an important aspect. There was choral works and much sacred music was operatic or theatrical in nature. Terms and definitions- The metronome was invented indicating tempo. The sonata-rondo relates sonata-allegro but alternated themes. Art song is the setting of a poem to music. Lieder is the term applied to German art songs. Cycles were used. Idee fixe is the melody representing the loved one in his symphony. Thematic transformation is a variation of melodies for programmatic purposes, also known as metamorphosis. Dies irae is a Gregorian chant for the dead. Diminution is a rhythmic technique in which note values are halved. Rubato is the technique of robbing of the tempos at some points and paying back at others. Character piece has impromptus, ballades (narrative songs without words), preludes (short mood pieces of no form), and nocturnes (night pieces). A minstrel show is a variety show as well as vaudeville.
Major Political events- Style that succeeded the dominance of German Romanticism and preceded the return of Classicism to the arts. Historical perspective- Impressionists and Primitivists reacted against the German romantic style. The Impressionists held the French view that art should be entertaining and elegant. Expressionism shows that we experience the trauma depicted by art with disturbed emotions Visual, literary, and performing arts- The love of nature is seen in the Impressionist landscapes and programmatic titles of Debussy’s music. The Primitivists turned to vivid, provocative, stirring styles of what they imagined of the life of uncivilized cultures. Symbolism is the literary movement sharing the ideals of the Impressionists. Major Composers- Gauguin painted life in the South Sea Islands. Stravinsky avoided the sentimentality of the Impressionists. Richard Strauss, Mahler, Debussy, Griffes, Ravel, Stravinsky, and Schoenberg. Musical forms- Had an appreciation for color and insistence on freedom from rules. Terms and definitions- Atonality is the avoidance of a tonic note and of tonal relationships in music.
Visual, literary, and performing arts- Reflected a sense of despair brought about by the circumstances of city life and of military confrontation beyond their personal control. Artists turned to the nonsense of Dada, the irony of Surrealism, and the abstraction of Cubism Major Composers- Schoenberg, Webern, Ives, Cowell, Varese, Babbitt, Cage, Oliveros, Boulez, Stockhausen, Penderecki Musical forms- Much of our music is a result of orderly, evolutionary progress. New music called Jazz with classical as well as popular music. Octave displacement is a melodic concept involving the selection of pitches from various, distant octaves. Terms and definitions- Cubism is an artistic syle in which planes are imposed on subjects of every nature. Mainstream is the main body of artwork of a given period. Polymeter is the use of one or more meter at the same time. Glissando is an excessive slide between pitches.
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